#28daysofwriting Day 8: A new type of learner

I signed up to a MOOC three weeks ago.  Completely mad given the timing but it sounded interesting.  It is my third MOOC and the second in just 4 months.  My first one in January 2013 Elearning and Digital Cultures (EdcMooc) through Coursera and Edinburgh University was an amazing experience.  One of the most powerful things were the online discussions and the Twitter Chats. These were something completely new for me and completely re-energised my learning.  I love the immediacy of them and the variety of comments from people all over the world with different perspectives.  I am still in contact with some of the other participants of EdcMooc who I made contact with through the Twitter stream.  We formed a Goodreads book club and have a Twitter chat each month to discuss the book that we vote on and read.

collage of photos to offer an image that shows balance.  A man on a bike balancing cleaning materials with social media icons around and the words edcmooc and Finding the BalanceIt took me nearly another two years before joining another MOOC.  Partly because of lack of time, partly because the topics didn’t really inspire me and partly because I had had such a good experience with EdcMooc that I was worried that another MOOC wouldn’t live up to it.

In November, I signed up to Understanding Language, a MOOC delivered by the University of Southampton through FutureLearn.   It was an ambitious task given that it was at the end of the term, Year 10 fell in the middle of it and then I was heading off to Costa Rica.  Would I manage to complete it?  The great thing about MOOCs is that you can do what you can.  You take from them what you can.  They are free.  I enjoyed the discussions in the forums.  People from all walks of life contributing, responding, offering their points of view based on their experience in response to the videos and articles.  I was disappointed, though, in the lack of interaction via social media which had so energised me in the EdcMooc.

This month, I am just about keeping up with eLearning Ecologies, another Coursera MOOC but this time delivered through the University of Illinois.  Again, the forum discussions are the most thought provoking.  One of the discussions following the videos and articles offered last week was about “Creating a New Type of Learner”.  The discussion here was about the affordances of technology to offer new ways of learning.

classroom with students taking photos of work on the board.I absolutely agree that we, as educators, are creating a new type of learner. Well, not just us, but society. However, personality and disposition have a lot to do with how those students develop. Some of my students jump at the chance to use technology; they are photographing notes off the board or mind maps we create in groups and uploading them to eportfolios; my inbox is full of messages and google docs being shared with me and they are responding to feedback with questions at all times of day and night.

Others, though, are completely overwhelmed; they struggle with learning independently, with having to find their way around the learning spaces I provide for them. Whilst they are bright, intelligent girls they prefer to be given the information so that they can learn it and regurgitate it. My hope is that I am providing them with a framework to be resilient learners, to navigate territory they are unsure of, but sometimes it is a battle. A battle which is not always helped by parents who say, “But that is how she learns. She needs written notes. Why can’t you just give her them?”

However, someone touched on the solution in one of the posts in the discussion.  We need to encourage change with the youngest students. They are the ones who have really grown up with a device in their hands.  But I believe that teachers too are important. They need to have the confidence and the conviction to adopt new ways of teaching and learning. Their disposition is just as important as the students. We cannot force change on either our learners or our students, we simply have to sow seed, nurture and reap the harvest.

Teachers of every generation have had to fight for change. This revolution is just a little faster, I think.

What if? Visions of the Future

Some intriguing and thought-provoking ideas from the BBC. A competition that invites people to submit ideas about what the future might hold for us.

This competition links in appropriately with the Coursera cMooc I recently completed when we looked at utopian and dystopian views of the world, past, present and future; the role that technology has played, plays and will play in the development of the world; the integral role and responsibility that we have in that development in terms of shaping society, societal values, the environment and the way that we live. There are some fascinating suggestions which I will explore in greater depth but one of the things the BBC did was to ask 6 artists to provide images that represented their ideas of the future.

I like Abdoulaye Konate‘s image which he suggests represents the idea that “the future of the world will depend on the attitude mankind decides to adopt. Above all what’s needed is total respect for the environment.”

image of a tapestry which shows strips of green fabric and a cut out silhouette of a person in the bottom right hand corner

Chema Madoz‘ vision is more bleak but a reminder too that we have to take responsibility for the world we live in and take measures to protect what is, after all, our lifeblood.

empty glass with the words "The End" imprinted on the bottom

Photo Fun…

….or should that be “foto fun” or even “photo phun”? As a linguist I hate it when I see the “ph” in words changed to “f” out of laziness or ignorance. However, the creative part of me quite likes it. I also know through studying languages that the English language is the way it is today because of the influence of a whole heap of invaders, settlers, movement, experiences and evolution. It is inevitable that many of our spelling conventions will change as they already have done over the years. The French have the “Academie Francaise” to police their language, and debates over such things as the use of the accent and the invasion of English words to express modern inventions are common wherever you go in France. But are they fighting a losing battle? Maybe the fluidity, the flexibility, the freedom of English has helped it become the lingua franca it is today?

Anyway, as usual I digress; the reason for this post was simply to comment on the photos I just posted to the edcmooc Flickr group. One of the course participants suggested that people might like to submit a photo that epitomised our ideas of a mooc. Mine is really just an image that reflects my feelings at the moment and I expect them to change – maybe we should also get people to submit a photo at the end of the course to see how our ideas have developed?

The first image, “A confusion of networks” reflects  the confusion I sort of feel at the moment – so many connections, so many threads …. I edited my own photo using ipiccy which is a free application that is really easy to use. I tried to find logos that were free to use but have a record of the websites I got them from. Always find that a tricky thing to manage! Photo originally taken in Pnomh Penh in 2011.

photo of telegraph pole with a confusion of wires and cables in a street in Cambodia. Overlaid with logos from well-known online network sites
“A confusion of networks”

The second image “Finding the Balance” is how I hope to feel when I have managed to get some balance with all the different connections that edcmooc seems to be! I used ipiccy again. This photo was originally taken in Dalat, Vietnam.

salesman on a bicycle in Dalat, Vietnam laden with dusters on sticks. Overlaid with logos of well-known online networking sites



Well, I have taken the plunge and signed up to a Coursera online course called Elearning and Digital Cultures.  I actually signed up back in November but the reality of it has only set in now that I have had a welcoming email, joined the edcmooc FB page, Google+ page and started tweeting with the edcmooc hashtag.  Reading the posts on FB and G+ I have started to feel a little overwhelmed and hope that I am not going to be out of my depth. 

It is a busy time of year here too – the start of a new school year and I have a lot to do to get ready for my classes as well as for the other areas for which I am responsible. Two school camps to get through this term so there is tons of paperwork for that although the time away, once we actually get there, is always great fun and definitely worth the hard work needed to get there.

One of my reasons for wanting to do this course is because I am the “IT Teacher Coach” at my school. It is a strange role and the story of my having it is complicated, but essentially I am available 7 hours over 6 days (we have a strange timetable!) to help my colleagues with using technology.  I have no formal qualifications and am definitely not a tech geek ( I leave that to the IT support team – they do the fixing and trouble shooting!) but developed a passion for using computer technology with my classes back in the 1990s when I had challenging French classes which consisted mainly of boys.  It was an attempt to find some way of reaching them and catching their attention so that I could sneak some French language into them without them really noticing! 

My role has metamorphosed, but I still have the official title “IT Teacher Coach”, and I still spend a lot of my time helping teachers with basic “nuts and bolts” of how to do stuff on email, how to insert images in docs, how to do stuff on the SMARTboard, how to use Google Docs etc. However,  I am finding that, as I and a few other teachers experiment with different ways of teaching and learning with our students using online activities, more and more of our colleagues are gaining in confidence and wanting to try things out too.  So I have spent more time helping and them to do that. 

This year our school theme is “Connected”, the whole focus of our Professional Development is on Blended Learning and I am one of the leaders for that.  We are still finding our way, and I am sure it is going to be one that we stumble our way along but it is surely going to be an interesting journey and we will learn from our mistakes. 

Hopefully this course will help me see the way a little more clearly, or maybe, as is often the case when there is so much information bombarding you, the waters will initially be even more muddied?! Nevertheless, I am excited to be on the expdition, nervous about taking the first few steps but eager to set off.